254630 Internet uses for STD surveillance and prevention

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wiley D. Jenkins, PhD, MPH , Family and Community Medicine, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL
Brittany Wold, MD , Center for Clinical Research, SIU School of Medicine, Springfield, IL
Background The Internet has become near-ubiquitous in the modern world, with >2.1 billion users, many utilizing it to seek out health information (61% US adults). Approximately 1/3 of Internet searches are sex-related, with many individuals seeking sex partners and sexually transmitted infection (STD) information.

Objective To identify and classify widespread Internet uses for STD intervention.

Methods We performed a review of peer-reviewed English-language manuscripts published since 2000 to identify general classifications/types of Internet use.

Results 271 articles were identified, many descriptive of Internet user characteristics. Intervention uses fell into five general categories: information collection (e.g. surveys), information provision, individual engagement (e.g. chat rooms; training), testing provision (e.g. online available sample kits), other services provision (e.g. condoms, treatments). Government and health departments were generally the most trusted and accurate providers of information, and frequent information collectors. Engagement via the Internet is generally effective, but frequently time consuming. Testing and other products may make screening and treatment more effective in some situations, but unreliable and unscrupulous sites are not readily identified as such and may erode public confidence.

Conclusions The Internet has the potential to reach target populations disproportionate in scale to the energy and finances expended. However, the need for suitable marketing and technologically advanced personal limit the effectiveness of many interventions. Furthermore, the majority of studies target the gay population, with few examining other high risk groups such as adolescent heterosexuals and adult swingers. Finally, the utility of social media such as Facebook has not been adequately explored.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the global reach of the Internet and the uses to which it is put regarding seeking health information, STD information and sex partners. 2. Describe the five general categories in which the Internet has been used for STD surveillance and intervention. 3. Discuss the relative effectiveness of these uses, especially in terms of scope and required resources and skills.

Keywords: Internet, STD Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a MPH and PhD in public health epidemiology and policy, have 13 years experience at the state health department and five years academic research experience in STD epidemiology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.